Encyclopedia of Southern Italy – S

Simbario (VV): A commune in the province of Vibo Valentia.

Simeri Crichi (CZ): A commune in the province of Catanzaro. Population: 4,142 (2006e).

Simmaco, S.: Bishop of Capua (r422-440).

Simon: Count of Sicily (r1101-1105).

Simone d’Aversa: fl. 14th-15th centuries. A metal smith from Sicily.

Simplicius, St.: Pope. (rMar 3, 468-Mar 10, 483).

Sinagra (ME): A commune in the province of Messina.

Sinatra, Vincenzo: fl. 1742-1779. An architect from Noto (SR).

Sinito, S.: Bishop of Capua (rAD 66-80).

Sinopoli (RC): A commune in the province of Reggio di Calabria.

Sinuessa (Sonuessa, Sinoessa) (mod. Torre San Limato di Cellole [CE]). A town of the ancient Aurunci located in northern Campania.

Siqlliya: Arabic name for Sicily.

Siracusa, Province of: A province of Sicily. Population: 398,948 (2007e).

Siracusa (SR): A commune and provincial capital of the province of Siracusa.

Siragusa, Federico: fl. 18th century. A sculptor from Trapani.

Sirako: Original Greek name for Siracusa (Syracuse). The name derives from the word for swamp, referring to marshlands which were once located nearby.

Sirens: mythical creatures with the heads of women and the bodies of birds. In ancient Greek and Roman mythology, the Sirens inhabited small, rocky islands where they sang sweet songs to passing ships, hoping to lure sailors to their doom. Odysseus survived their trap by stuffing the ears of his men with wax so they could not hear the Sirens’ song. Curious to hear them, he ordered his men to lash him to the ship’s mast and not release him until they had passed the Sirens. Another group of heroes, the Argonauts succeeded in avoiding the lure of the Sirens by having Orpheus, one of their crew, sing and play his lyre so loud that the Sirens could not be heard. Ancient sources differ on the number of Sirens, Homer mentioning only two, but other writers like Ovid and Libanius, saying that there were three or four of them.

Siricius, St.: Pope. (rDec 11, 384-Nov 26, 399).

Sirignano (AV): A commune in the province of Avellino. Population: 2,719 (2006e).

sirocco: a hot, dry wind which blows off the North African deserts over the Mediterranean Sea to Sicily and Italy. It is often cited as the reason for what foreigners considered widespread indolence and lethargy of southern Italians.

Sisinnius: Pope. (rJan 15-Feb 4, 708).

Sixtus I, St.: Pope. (r115/116-125).

Sixtus II, St.: Pope. (rAug 30/31, 257-Aug 6, 258).

Sixtus III, St.: Pope. (rJuly 31, 432-Mar/Aug 440).

Sixtus IV: Pope. (rAug. 9, 1471-Aug 12, 1484).

Sixtus V: Pope. (rApr 24, 1585-Aug 27, 1590).

Slavery in ancient Italy and Sicily (Roman Era): It has been estimated that during the time of Augustus (r 31 BC-AD 14) about a third of Italy’s population consisted of slaves. Slavery in ancient Italy was widespread during Roman times. According to one estimate, in 225 BC, the population of Italy (excluding Cisalpine Gaul in the north) numbered about 3,000,000 free inhabitants and about 2,000,000 slaves. Another estimate (which includes Cisalpine Gaul) puts the numbers at about 3,000,000 slaves out of a total population of c7,500,000. It has been suggested that between 225 BC to the end of the reign of Augustus (AD 14), the population of Roman Italy doubled in size. The free population remained relatively stable in number, but changed considerably in its composition. At the beginning of the period, the free population consisted mostly of the old native Italian stock. By its end, the bulk of free “Romans”; were either foreign-born freedmen or their descendants. The members of this group were mostly skilled and/or literate men who had been able to buy their freedom. We can get an idea of the extent of this group through literary and epigraphic sources. By far, the greatest increase in population came from hordes of agricultural slaves. Contrary to the free-born and freedmen, the vast majority of this group were no more than nameless “ghosts.” Lacking the necessary skills and literacy to obtain their freedom, they toiled their lives away on the wretched latifundi, huge farms or ranches where there was little hope of escape or freedom. Because no records survive concerning these slaves, it is impossible to estimate their exact numbers with any hope of accuracy. When the agricultural slaves do make their brief appearances in history, it is usually in connection with a violent revolt. During the Third Servile War (73-71 BC), that led by the famous Spartacus, it was said that his army numbered about 150,000 at its height. Most, though not all, of the members of this slave army came from the latifundi. This number, however, cannot be used to estimate the slave population. Most of the rebel slaves would have come from a relatively small number of ranches. Most of the latifundi would have been unaffected by the revolt. Likewise, a large percentage of Spartacus’s army was not servile at all but, rather were poor, landless, free-born Italians who had different motivations for joining the revolt. The slaves were seeking freedom and a way to return to their native homes. The free-born rebels were spurred on by the possibility of loot and revenge against the Romans. There were considerable numbers of Italics (Samnites, Campanians, Lucanians, Bruttii) who had lost their homes and livelihoods as a result of the Roman victory in the Social War (91-88 BC).While the majority of slaves on the latifundi were likely to be foreign-born, there would have been a considerable number of Italian slaves as well. Unwanted children, especially those born to free, but destitute, families were exposed to the elements soon after their birth. Although cruel by today’s standards, exposure was a widespread and necessary practice in the ancient world. Crop yields were at best erratic. Droughts and crop failures meant starvation and well as epidemics. In order for some to stay alive, others, especially infants, had to be sacrificed. By tradition and law, anyone who came upon one of these exposed babies could claim it as a slave, whether it had been born to free parents or not. There were also a considerable number of free Italians who sold themselves into slavery because of crippling debt. By the 1st Century BC, as the Republic was giving way to the chaos of civil war, the majority of “Roman” citizens would have been freedmen or servile in ancestry. The shop-keepers and artisans addressed by Marc Antony as “friends, Romans, and countrymen” in the Roman Forum would have actually had little in common with that great Roman noble. Another factor which blurred the social lines between the slave and free populations of Italy was in the act of manumission itself. Although slaves could “marry” one another after a fashion, the law did not recognize these bonds as legal. Thus, although slaves were manumitted, their spouses and offspring did not automatically gain their own freedom. It was usually up to the freedman to earn enough money to purchase their families if possible. Also, if an offspring were born to free/slave couple, it would automatically become a slave. People could only consider themselves freeborn if both of their parents were free at the time of birth. Contrary to what some might think, Roman masters were not particularly pleased to have their slaves produce offspring. While this may have added wealth to the master, it also created an additional economic burden. A certain amounts of basics had to be purchased for the maintainance of every slave. A master might expect a return on this expense through the labor of a slave old enough to work. With an infant, however, there was not only the direct expense of sheltering and feeding it for years, but also the loss time expended by the mother to provide care. Economically, it was far less costly to buy a slave old enough to work than to breed them domestically. Despite economic and legal obstacles, however, slaves, especially those in urban settings, tended to create their own families on an increasing basis. This was especially true among the wealthier, skilled slaves. Thus, while the modern racist claim that the southern Italian population descends from the slaves brought to Italy in ancient times, it neglects to add that the slaves in question were often the better educated and well-skilled. There still remained other social obstacles for a freedman wishing for his own family. Freedmen could not marry outside of their class and there were relatively few women who were manumitted in comparison to men. The fortunate few who did create families also had to deal with the economic burden of raising children. Surviving evidence indicates that freedman families were normally small, with only one of two children.